General Motors execs Gary Cowger and Robert Lutz were the big-ticket items at this year's Cattle Baron's Ball auction in Detroit on Oct. 2. The auction raised more than $2 million for the American Cancer Society. Part of that came from one woman who paid $125,000 to walk the floor of next year's Detroit auto show with Cowger and Lutz. Other items included a ride in Lutz's fighter plane and a round of golf with Cowger and baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline.
TINY COMPLAINTS -- The most common complaint among new owners of Japan's minicars is - what a surprise - that the vehicles' 660cc engine "lacks power." According to the J.D. Power Asia Pacific 2004 Japan Minicar Initial Quality Study, gripes about engines have increased, and more minicar owners are considering a move to compact cars with 1.0-liter engines such as the Toyota Platz, known as the Echo in the United States.
FLATTERING, BUT UNTRUE -- A law student in England has beaten a speeding ticket by proving that his Fiat Punto could not reach the 184 kilometers per hour - almost 115 mph - claimed by police. Steve Lucas thought the cops were joking when they said he was driving nearly 40 mph over the speed limit. Lucas, 20, was sure his Punto couldn't go that fast. "I was happy to put my hands up and admit that I was driving at 85 mph," he said. "But the idea that my little Fiat Punto 1.2-liter could manage 115 mph was laughable. I decided to fight it on principle." He hired a consultant, who tested the unlikely hot rod at a race course. Sure enough: The top speed was 166 kph, or about 103 mph. The charges were dropped.
SOLD! Two weeks ago we told you that a May 31 issue of Automotive News, featuring a quiz on design terms, was languishing on online auction site eBay without one bid. We're pleased to report that someone did put in a winning bid. OK, it was only $4. And there was only one bidder. But it's nice to know that somebody cares.
GET OUT AND SELL -- Chrysler group employees and retirees may extend the employee discount on a vehicle purchase to a friend or neighbor through December. Buyers must trade in a competitive make. But forget about asking, "That thing got a Hemi?" All Hemi-powered vehicles are off limits as the company struggles to meet demand for the V-8.